FAQS: Accessibility

If a resort has a no pet policy, are they obliged to accept guests with guide dog or service animal?

Service animals are not pets, they are considered working animals. The customer service standard requires that you ensure that a person is permitted to be accompanied by his or her service animal in the areas of their premises that are open to the public or third parties unless excluded by law. For example, from food preparation areas under the Health Protection and Promotion Act or the Food Safety and Quality Act regulations.

In some cases, food might be prepared in the same areas where it is served, sold or offered for sale. In these cases, organizations are encouraged to contact their local Public Health Unit to learn more about how to interpret their requirements.

Under the standard, an animal is a service animal if:
• it is readily apparent that the animal is used by the person for reasons relating to his or her disability, or
• the person has a letter from a physician or nurse verifying that the animal is required for reasons relating to his or her disability.

If it is not obvious that the animal is a service animal, a provider is not required to allow the animal on the premises if the person does not have a letter from a physician or nurse, or an identification card from the Ministry of the Attorney General. It is important to note that the person is responsible for the animal and should ensure that it behaves in an appropriate manner.

Is a person with severe allergies considered as having a disability?

The Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act, 2005 (AODA) adopted the same definition for disability as the Ontario Human Rights Code. This is also the definition of disability that applies to the customer service standard under the AODA, which is:

  1. Any degree of physical disability, infirmity, malformation or disfigurement that is caused by bodily injury, birth defect or illness and, without limiting the generality of the foregoing, includes diabetes mellitus, epilepsy, a brain injury, any degree of paralysis, amputation, lack of physical co-ordination, blindness or visual impediment, deafness or hearing impediment, muteness or speech impediment, or physical reliance on a guide dog or other animal or on a wheelchair or other remedial appliance or device,
  2. A condition of mental impairment or a developmental disability,
  3. A learning disability, or a dysfunction in one or more of the processes involved in understanding or using symbols or spoken language,
  4. A mental disorder, or
  5. An injury or disability for which benefits were claimed or received under the insurance plan established under the Workplace Safety and Insurance Act, 1997; (“handicap”).

This definition includes disabilities of different severity, visible as well as non-visible disabilities, and disabilities the effects of which may come and go.

While the definition may not mention allergies specifically, depending on the circumstances, an allergy may be considered a disability. For example, if the needs of the person with the allergy are not considered, it could create an unintended barrier for them or even become life threatening. Accessible customer service should involve taking into consideration and working to meet the needs of all customers.

When will the accessibility standards for building requirements become law/what are the current policies for such things as number of wheelchair ramps, table heights, etc?

The Accessibility Standard for the Built Environment is still under development, and not yet law.

This standard intends to reduce physical barriers for persons with disabilities in both buildings and the exterior environment. It will include things like ramps and automatic door openers.

As with the process used to develop all of the current standards, a proposed standard was developed by a committee composed of members from the disability community, municipalities, private business and not-for profit organizations. The committee’s Final Proposed Accessible Built Environment Standard was submitted to the Minister of Community and Social Services for her consideration in July 2010.

The Accessibility Directorate of Ontario is working with the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing to complete a careful analysis of the proposed standard to ensure that the requirements put forward are clear, consistent and enforceable, and build on current accessibility requirements.

Once this process is complete, the government will make decisions on what will become law and when.
The proposed standard builds on current accessibility provisions in the Ontario Building Code (OBC). If passed, the Accessibility Standard for the Built Environment will be incorporated into the OBC where appropriate and will only affect new buildings or major renovations. It will not require retrofitting of existing buildings.

Current accessibility requirements for the built environment are addressed in the Ontario Building Code. The Ontario Building Code is the responsibility of the Code Development and Advisory Unit of the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing.

Please visit the government’s http://Ontario.ca/AccessON website regularly for updates on the proposed Accessibility Standard for the Built Environment.

Can a business ask for dog certification or is it offensive to ask for ID for the dog?

Generally service animals, including guide dogs, are identified by a vest or harness. If there is any question as to whether or not the animal in question is a service animal it is acceptablec to ask the owner to see certification papers for the animal. For more information see http://www.accessibletourismwebsite.com/QA.aspx

In most hotels, there is a policy to accept a deposit for animals, would the same apply for working dogs? If the hotel already charges for pets, can they charge?

Service animals are not pets and a deposit should not be charged.

My question is about allowing guide dogs on a ski lift (and further on the slopes) and how to respond. This seems like an unsafe situation for the dog, person with the disability and other customers. Are there any recommendations from the Accessibility Directorate? I have also sent off this question to the TSSA (Technical Standards and Safety Authority) for their position on dogs on lifts/ski-snowboard runs.

The customer service standard requires that organizations ensure that a person is permitted to be accompanied by his or service animal in the areas of their premises that are open to the public or third parties. Where the person’s health and safety could be impacted by this requirement, the ski resort should explore other options that may enable the person with a disability to access their services.

The resort should develop policies, practices and procedures to address the requirements of the customer service standard that also take into account the rationale for limiting access and their legal liability for safety. They may wish to consult with their legal counsel to determine if there are any possible contravention issues.
Considerations for protecting health safety should be based on specific factors and not on assumptions of what the person is able or not able to do.

For example:
1. Is there a significant risk to the health and safety of the person with a disability or others (the mere possibility of
risk is insufficient)?
2. Is the risk greater than the risk associated with other customers?
3. Can the risk be eliminated or reduced by other means?
4. Is the risk assessment based on considering duration of the risk, nature and severity of the potential harm, the
likelihood that the potential harm will occur, and the imminence of the potential harm?
5. Is the risk assessment based on the individual’s actual characteristics, not merely generalizations,
misperceptions, ignorance or fears about a disability

If the animal has to be excluded, the organization must consider the needs of the person if their animal cannot accompany them. They could explain to the individual why the animal needs to be excluded and see what other arrangements could be made to provide them with services. If the person agrees, this might mean leaving the animal in a secure area and asking the person if they might need someone to guide him or her.

As an organization develops their policies, practices and procedures with respect to service animals, they should consider these types of scenarios and whether alternative measures could be offered if an assessment limits access on health and safety grounds. Staff must be trained on the resort’s policies, practices and procedures on serving customers with disabilities to ensure that service and the assessment process is provided in a consistent and accessible manner, and that these policies are communicated to guests. The important thing is to ensure that other measures are explored when a persons’ service animal is excluded.

If someone who uses a service dog enters my establishment when we are set up with music, dancing and night club atmosphere, how do we ensure the safety of the dog from floor spillage, possible glass on ground and his safety in a crowded environment?

The customer service standard requires that you ensure that a person is permitted to be accompanied by his or her service animal in the areas of your premises that are open to the public or third parties. It does not require that you ensure the safety of the animal. The person with the disability is responsible for the care and supervision of his or her service animal.

If you are concerned about risks to the animal, you are encouraged to discuss this with your customer to determine the best approach that will best meet the needs of those involved.

Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA)
1. Does the content published on a website prior to January 1, 2012 have to be accessible?

An email was sent to the Accessibility Directorate of Ontario seeking clarification on whether content published on a website before January 1, 2012 was required to be compliant with WCAG 2.0. It does not unless requested by an individual. Under Section 14, web content published on a website before January 1, 2012 is not required to be compliant with WCAG 2.0. However, people with disabilities can still request information to be provided in an accessible format under the Section 12, Accessible Formats and Communication Supports Requirement.

2. How do you make a document accessible but still keep it graphically appealing?

The Association of Registered Graphic Designers of Ontario has produced a document called “A Practical Handbook on Accessible Graphic Design” which has some great suggestions. A PDF version is attached.

3. Is there a website that can test for colour contrast?

Yes, Juicy Studio Luminosity Colour Contrast Ratio Analyser has a link that can assist you Link to Juicy Studios to check for colour contrast